Easy does it! Chris Bianco is renowned in the food world for his impeccable pizza skills — Jimmy Kimmel is a fan — but one of the recipes closest to the chef’s heart is a simple summer salad. As a kid, the Phoenix-based pizzaiolo often spent summer weekends at his family’s cabin in upstate New York.
“On Sundays, we’d have a big dinner,” Bianco shares. “My grandfather would make a salad with romaine and red onion yanked straight from his garden, homemade red wine vinegar, and some nothing-fancy olive oil.”
Now he makes a “grown-up translation” of the salad recipe using escarole, which lends a slightly bitterness, instead of romaine.
Bianco recommends seeking out wild oregano (“It’s heady, medicinal scent is like a Fellini film come to life,” according to the chef) and using Stilton, Gorgonzola or Point Reyes Blue for the blue cheese. The recipe below serves four, but it’s easy to scale it up to entertain your friends and family.
Sunday Salad (Escarole Salad)
1 head escarole, outermost leaves removed
A generous slice of pain au levain or sourdough bread
1 garlic clove, halved
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
8 thin slices red onion
2 tsp honey
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
A couple of good pinches of dried oregano, preferably wild
1 ounce blue cheese, crumbled
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, separate the escarole leaves; wash and dry them thoroughly. Trim one-third inch off the tops. Into a big bowl, tear the leaves into inch-wide strips.
- Lay the bread on the oven rack and toast, a couple of minutes. Remove the bread from the heat and rub it all over with a garlic clove half, then drizzle it with olive oil. Tear the bread into rough pieces; set aside.
- Make the dressing: In a medium bowl, pour in honey, then slowly add the vinegar, whisking to incorporate it. Still mixing, slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking until the dressing is fully emulsified. Add a little sea salt and a few turns of pepper.
- Add the onion slices to the bowl of escarole, then add the dressing. Mix gently with your hands to evenly coat the greens. Add a sprinkle of salt and a couple of turns of pepper, then add the oregano, pinching it with your fingers to release the scent. Mix one last time.
- Divide the salad among four plates and finish each serving with a few pieces of torn bread and some of the blue cheese.
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